Employment and Disability: why should I employ you? –

Jane Hatton, who manages Evenbreak, a not-for-profit job board run by disabled people for disabled people, publishes her monthly article on the subject of employment and diversity.


If you were going to sell a car, you would need to find out all its good points and then talk to the prospective buyer about those. Maybe it has a fuel-efficient engine, heated seats, low mileage, or perhaps it’s a popular colour. It’s the same with people. In order to “sell” our skills, talents, qualities and abilities to prospective employers, we need to know what they are. And I would put money (if I had any) on you having far more marketable skills than you had ever thought of.

Just for fun, and to humour me, write down somewhere (you don’t have to show anyone) the skills and talents you have that might be attractive to employers. Go on – do it now, and come back when you’ve finished.

Back? OK, how many did you think of? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? Not even close. Let’s look in much more depth at the skills you were born with and have developed since then.

New piece of paper (or new word document, or however you are comfortable capturing this information). First of all, write down every job you have ever done. Work experience at school, part time job at college/university, helping someone out in the school holidays, every paid job, unpaid job, voluntary job, part time or full time that you have ever done. Now, against each one, what skills did you learn or develop while you were there? So, for example, I worked as a waitress in a hotel in the holidays between school and college. Two months, full time. In 1976! I learned so much – dealing with customers, working as part of a team, taking pride in offering a good service, taking orders, communication skills and many more. I’ve never been a waitress since, but all those skills have been used and further developed in other jobs. So, for each job, what skills did you learn?

Then think about things you do and have done outside of work. Neighbourhood watch committee? Parent/teacher association at your children’s school? School governor? Religious activities? Lobbying group? Write all of those down and again, the skills you learned next to each.

And then what about hobbies? Do you know a lot about history? Play a musical instrument? Coach a junior sports team? Dance? Act? Paint or draw? Write them all down – things you do now and things you used to do.

Next, write down all the general skills you have – things you are good at and enjoy doing. This could be anything from practical skills like making and mending things, sewing, gardening, cooking, DIY, to things like organisational skills, problem solving, design, research, technology, writing, planning, motivating and many more. What are your skills? Write them all down. How big is your list now? And there’s more …

Now think about knowledge. This includes formal knowledge from school, or college or university, and also any short courses you might have done. If you’ve lived in other countries, or travelled, you may have knowledge of foreign languages or cultures. You may have an interest in mechanics or local history or classical music. Capture these on your list.

Most importantly (and the bit that most people forget), list your personality traits that would be attractive to an employer. As an employer myself, I want to work with people who are positive, friendly, helpful, conscientious, flexible, reliable, loyal, work well with people and on their own, enjoy learning new things and come up with good ideas. Do you have some or all of these traits? Write them down.

And finally look back at this article – what particular skills have you developed as a result of being disabled? Add all of those to your list too.

It’s a good idea to also ask some people you trust what skills they think you have – they are bound to mention things you hadn’t thought of – perhaps you are a good listener, a loyal friend, very reliable, a creative thinker? Add those to your list.

So. How long is your list now? Much longer than the first one, I suspect. Whether or not you are working at the moment, take a look at this list – full of talents, skills, strengths, personality traits, knowledge and experience that you have to offer an employer. If you are applying for work, pick out the talents from this list that are relevant to the job you are going for, and make sure to mention them on your CV and in your interview. You have more to offer than you ever realised. Be proud of that, let that knowledge boost your confidence, and make sure people know just how valuable you are.

By Jane Hatton

Source: http://disabilityhorizons.com/2015/02/employment-disability-employ/?utm_source=Disability+Horizons+RSS-Email&utm_campaign=5151fa96cf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_75cf3532a8-5151fa96cf-308149321


Wearable technology is redefining what it means to be disabled

The meaning of “disabled” is changing as people adopt wearable devices and move into a bionic future.

The visually impaired have used canes to navigate for most of recorded history, but the white version we’re familiar with was born in early 20th century Paris. Guilly d’Herbemont lived above a street frequented by blind pedestrians, regularly witnessing their peril in an era when automobiles were common but crosswalks a novelty. By 1931, she had come up with the idea of establishing a bold white cane as a protective symbol and navigational tool for the blind, and distributed more than 5,000 of them at her own expense. The idea had spread internationally within two years.

Tech developer Krispian Lawrence hopes to build on d’Herbemont’s legacy. Lawrence lives in India, which he says has “the unfortunate distinction of being the blind capital of the world,” and he sees both the strengths and drawbacks of the white cane. “The cane has social significance. At the same time, it has two major defects: it can’t [guide] you from one place to another, and it can’t orient you.” Lawrence is CEO of Lechal (Hindi for “Take me there”), which he co-founded with Anirudh Sharma in 2011. The company is about to release its first products: footwear that will supplement the white cane by providing navigation and safety information through vibrations in the wearer’s feet.

Since starting the company, Lawrence and his team have discovered that their product appeals to a variety of people. When the Lechal shoes and insoles become available later this year (for about $150), they will include features that will help runners monitor their pace, outdoorsmen map new trails, and tourists navigate unknown cities, all without burying their faces in a smartphone. This broader spectrum of users benefit from the haptic interface and motion commands that make Lechal intuitive for the blind.

Lechal is just one example of how wearable tech is eroding the boundaries between assistive technology and the consumer technology market. As interfaces get more creative and sensors get more powerful, people with all types of bodies will be drawn to technology that enhances senses, monitors health, and eases interactions with the environment. As they become more and more a part of everyday life, these devices may shift our views on bodies and their limitations.

The developers at Soundhawk have planted their flag on that blurring line. Soundhawk is an in-ear device to enhance hearing—but don’t call it a hearing aid. The company’s founders and executives include audiologists who have seen plenty of patients experience difficulty hearing in certain situations even though they display no measurable sign of hearing loss. Soundhawk is based on the same technology built into high-end hearing aids, but it’s targeted at this technically unimpaired group.

“We’re taking a product away from the idea of being a hearing assistive device for people who have a problem,” says Drew Dundas, the company’s chief science officer, “to being a performance enhancement for people to improve their quality of life.” To target these users, Soundhawk is trying to distance itself from the stigma of hearing aids as signs of aging and infirmity. In part, they’re doing this by marketing the device directly to consumers, rather than through doctors.

Soundhawk has also bucked the trend toward invisibility in hearing aids, instead releasing a device that resembles a hands-free headset—a design less likely to mark the user as impaired than even the most discreet in-ear hearing aid. Similarly, while Lechal offers invisible insoles, its shoe product is flashy, a bet that today’s users are unembarrassed about showing off their enhancements.

The assistive benefits of wearables aren’t limited to those with mobility and perceptual deficits. Jesse Slade Shantz, chief medical officer of the “smart” apparel companyOMsignal, cites the power of biometric tracking for lung and heart disease patients, diabetics, and sleep apnea sufferers. As the sophisticated sensors once available only in clinics and labs find their way into shirts and watches, chronic disease patients will be able to optimize their behavior in real time, in ways very similar to how early-adopting fitness buffs already use wearables.

As wearable technology advances and spreads, information technology is becoming even more ubiquitous, with complex implications for those who use assistive devices. According to a report by Transparency Market Research, the assistive devices market is estimated to grow to $19.68 billion by 2019. But that measure only includes devices defined as assistive in the traditional way. Lechal, Soundhawk, OMsignal, and other consumer wearables that are useful for the disabled and able-bodied alike might constitute a new category.

They may also change how society as a whole understands disability. Will Seymour of the Future Foundation consulting group points out that wearable and mobile tech is already giving the disabled newfound freedom to communicate and navigate. “Allowing someone to do more with their body is certainly a redefinition of what it means to have a disability,” he says. “Performance boundaries are now seen as flexible; the body’s weaknesses as negotiable.”

Source: http://fortune.com/2015/02/10/wearables-disability/

Justice Department Files Report from Expert Panel Calling for Sweeping Changes to Bring Law School Admission Council’s Testing Accommodation Procedures into Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Justice Department filed a best practices report from an expert panel convened pursuant to the Consent Decree in Dept. of Fair Employment & Housing (DEFH) v. Law School Admission Council, Inc. (LSAC), Case No. 12-1830-EMC (N. D. Cal). The panel, consisting of experts in cognitive disabilities, the provision of testing accommodations, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was charged with examining ten specific areas of LSAC’s testing accommodation practices and establishing, where needed, changes or “best practices” to bring LSAC into compliance with Title III of the ADA. The panel’s Best Practices Report requires sweeping changes to LSAC’s testing accommodation practices in each of the ten areas examined. For example, the Best Practices Report details the types of documentation that will be sufficient for various types of testing accommodations requests, outlines who should review testing accommodation requests and how the review should be conducted, and creates an appeals process for those candidates whose testing accommodation requests are denied. The timeline for LSAC’s implementation of the best practices depends on whether any of the parties challenge them in court.